This week, Barney and Robin's relationship hits a snag. He gains weight, she stops caring about her looks and they basically lose their awesomeness - both as individuals and as a couple. Concerned for their friends, Marshall, Ted and Lily devise a foolproof plan to break up the unhappy couple. But will it work?
Future Ted tells his kids that as long as he can remember, Barney had always had strong (and negative) opinions on relationships. But in the fall of 2009, Barney has found himself mired in his own relationship - and it's serious. Not only is he bequeathing his porn collection to Ted, but he's sporting Relationship Gut.
In Ted's apartment, Lily, Ted and Marshall start to go through Barney's enormous collection of porn. Lily offers to take care of it for Ted, but Ted insists (strongly) that he'd rather handle it. Lily had been hoping to get some porn for herself, but she walks away with squat - no, literally, she gets a videotape called "Squat."
Left alone, Ted starts to go through the porn collection and stumbles upon a particularly intriguing title called Archisexture. Future Ted tells his kids that pornography is bad, and he'd been planning to get rid of it when something terrible happened: Present Ted trips, drops the box of porn, and Archisexture magically flies up into the air and inserts itself into the VCR. "Oh no!" says Ted, before grinning and settling on the couch to watch.
We see the title screen for Archisexture, which is immediately replaced by video footage of Barney from 2005. He tells Ted that if he's in possession of Barney's porn collection, it can only mean one of two things: either Barney's dead, or he's in a committed relationship. If he's dead, Barney wants Ted to take his body to the Hamptons, Weekend at Bernie's-style. But if he's in a relationship, then he only has one request: "Please, for the love of God, GET ME OUT OF IT!!!"
Ted invites Marshall and Lily over to watch Barney's video. 2005 Barney continues to plead with Ted. "I might look happy, but don't believe it," he says. "Barney Stinson is meant to be single." After he finishes begging, he realizes that Ted probably was expecting to see porn, so he focuses the camera onto his bed, where a girl is waiting. Heh.
Ted switches off the TV. "Are you sure he was finished talking?" asks Lily. (I wonder if Marshall is okay with how hot for Barney she always seems to be.) Ted wonders if they should take 2005 Barney's request seriously. Lily says no, arguing that it's an old tape and that Barney is happy with Robin. But over the next couple of weeks, Ted starts to notice Barney and Robin settling into a bit of a rut. They stop having crazy adventures, opting instead to stay in and watch movies on the couch. ("It was Legend - wait for it - s of the Fall!" says Barney.) Barney starts eating all the time. He refuses to be Ted's wingman. And Robin starts getting annoyed every time Barney talks.
Future Ted tells us that Barney and Robin only started letting themselves go a little bit...but to him, they looked really, really bad. We see Ted's exaggerated version of the couple: Robin looking pasty and sporting stringy hair and zits; and Barney packing on an extra 50 pounds or so. (I'm not usually a big fan of fat suits on sitcoms, but somehow NPH makes it work. At the very least, it's a fun sight gag to see the usually svelte Barney looking that pudgy.)
Later, at Ted's apartment, Ted expresses concern to Lily and Marshall. "They're killing each other!" he exclaims. Lily says that's nonsense; they just love each other. Ted disagrees, arguing that they're not Barney and Robin anymore...they're the fat guy and the old lady. "If they're not happy, why don't they just break up?" Marshall asks. "Because they're too stubborn," responds Ted. Lily argues that they're just going through a rough patch, and they'll get through it. But Marshall comes around to Ted's line of thinking after talking with Barney (who can now eat an entire disgusting beef rib and still be hungry afterward) and realizing how unhappy he is.
Ted and Marshall decide that Barney and Robin need to break up. They decide to bring in Lily, since she was so good at breaking up Ted and his old girlfriends. But Lily refuses - she doesn't like interfering anymore. So Ted and Marshall decide to try on their own.
Ted recalls that the one thing that really freaked out Robin when they were dating was the time she thought Ted was proposing to her. As many of you remember, that eventually led to the breakup of Ted and Robin. So they decide to recreate the moment, hoping for the same outcome. The next time Barney and Robin go out to dinner, Ted and Marshall arrange for glasses of champagne (one containing an engagement ring) to be delivered to their table. (My question: Who paid for the ring? And will it be returnable after soaking in champagne for God knows how long? Ted and Marshall must really be committed to this whole breakup ruse.) Unfortunately, things don't go as planned. Robin and Barney halfheartedly decide that maybe things would just be easier if they got married, so they decide they might as well tie the knot.
Pissed, Lily takes matters into her own hands. "These guys are in so deep, one fight isn't going to do it," she explains. In order to break them up for good, they need to re-create the four biggest fights Barney and Robin have ever had, which are:
1. The Battle of the Dirty Dishes, which we saw last week
2. The Ex-Girlfriend Conflict, in which Barney doesn't recognize ex-girlfriend Megan until she bends over and he sees her from behind...and then compares her to Robin
3. The Star Wars Altercation, in which Robin complains about Barney's life-size Stormtrooper model
4. The Canadian-American War, in which Barney mocks Neil Young
Lily orchestrates an extravagant scenario that combines elements from each fight. The next time Barney and Robin eat out at their favorite diner, Robin's friend (and Canadian native) Alan Thicke stops by to spark the Canadian-American debate. Then, ex-girlfriend Megan shows up and a Stormtrooper walks by their window...just as a busser walks by their table with dirty dishes. Lily predicts that the combination will be deadly for the relationship, and we're treated to a montage of Barney and Robin fighting each other to the strains of "Murder Train." Ted thinks this is a brilliant plan, and Marshall excitedly requests a stakeout van in which the three of them can watch the drama unfold.
Unfortunately, it doesn't really work out that way. First of all, Ted gets a station wagon instead of a van because it's cheaper, which upsets Marshall and makes it difficult for them to fit in the sausage pizza they ordered. (But it also opens up an opportunity for a steady stream of double-entendres from the pizza guy, which is awesome.) Plus, Lily couldn't get a Stormtrooper, so she got a "different robot," even though Ted and Marshall (and all the Star Wars fans watching the episode) are horrified that she thinks Stormtroopers and robots are the same thing. Also, Alan Thicke is on a tight schedule.
Suddenly, Lily sees Barney and Robin staring quizzically out the window of the diner. "They see us!" she gasps. Undeterred, she decides to go along with the plan anyway. But it doesn't seem to work - instead of fighting, Barney and Robin share a sweet kiss before leaving the diner. What Lily, Ted and Robin don't realize is that Barney and Robin have actually already broken up. When they were staring quizzically out the window earlier, it wasn't because they saw the station wagon - it was because they finally got a good look at their own reflections. Faced with the reality of their situation, they were forced to be honest with each other about their unhappiness. Turns out that too much "awesome" in a relationship cancels itself out.
But Barney is bummed that breaking up means that they can't be friends anymore. "Well, maybe this isn't a breakup," says Robin. "Maybe this is just two friends getting back together." Barney likes that, and they share the kiss that their friends saw from the road. Future Ted tells us that they really did need things to run their course.
At McLaren's, Marshall asks Robin how Barney is doing. She begins to respond, but then stops and asks, "Did you just feel a chill?" The heads of every under-30 female in the bar turn as a slimmed-down Barney, decked out in an especially dashing pinstriped suit, enters the bar, adjusts his tie, and announces, "Daddy's home."
Later that night, the gang chats with Alan Thicke. "I'm so glad you guys are still friends so long after doing that music video," says Lily. Alan looks confused, then gets it. "Oh, the "Sandcastles" video! Yes, we did that together, too." (Am I the only one who thought at first that he was hinting that he and Robin had a fling?) Barney's ears immediately perk up. "What do you mean, 'too'?" Alan explains that he and Robin had a failed Canadian TV variety show. Barney processes this information as Alan leaves, then dashes out the door in pursuit of a video.
How are you guys feeling about this episode? I know a lot of you are probably relieved to see the end of "Barman and Robin." I've been a shipper for a while, and I'm still struggling to reconcile the Barney and Robin pairing we got with the one the show has been building up for so long. I'm hoping that after a while, they figure out how to be together and be their awesome selves at the same time. But whether that happens or not, I am glad to see our old Barney back. And how about the awesome bits in this episode? The use of "Murder Train" was fantastic, and I loved Alan Thicke. (The writers had better deliver on that variety show!) What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments!